“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.” Pope Saint John Paul II spoke these words during the closing homily at World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. I was there. I don’t remember reflecting deeply on them at that time, but they continue to speak to me now.

Imagine what the prodigal son in today’s Gospel thought about himself while he was dying of hunger and feeding the swine. It looked like his life was the sum of his weaknesses and failures. He told his father that he wished he was dead so that he could have his inheritance now. He squandered that inheritance on selfishness and sin, gluttony and lust. Now, he was far away from home and alone. No one there cared for him or would even give him any food.

Even in his weaknesses and failures, his identity as a beloved son of his father never changed. The father revealed this to him when he caught sight of him while he was still a long way off because he was looking for and longing for his son to return. The father runs out to meet him rather than having his son come groveling back. The father embraces him and kisses him. The father interrupts the prepared speech and forgives him. The father gives him a robe, ring, and scandals all of which show his sonship. Then the party begins.

The prodigal son’s self-evaluation couldn’t have been more wrong. He thought he no longer

deserved to be called a son because of his weaknesses and failures. In reality, his identity in his father’s eyes never changed, and the father couldn’t wait for his son to come home. Come to your senses. Return to your heavenly Father. You bear the image of His Son Jesus.

Fr. Steve Flynn of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Ohio loves the Eucharist, the priesthood, and the Church. His goal is to share the joy and peace he has received from Jesus with others. Connect with him on social media: Facebook and Twitter



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